Egyptian fishermen return after escaping pirates

Sun Aug 23, 2009 5:18pm EDT
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SUEZ, Egypt (Reuters) - Egyptian fishermen who escaped Somali pirates this month received a raucous reception when they sailed into port at the southern end of the Suez Canal on Sunday.

Family, friends, well-wishers and officials were on hand to greet the 34 men on their return after their two fishing vessels, the Momtaz 1 and Samara Ahmed, were hijacked in April.

The men overpowered their armed captors on August 13 and fled in the two vessels, bringing eight pirates with them. At least seven dead pirates were found in the sea by their colleagues afterwards, an associate of the pirates has said.

Egyptian security met the returning vessels at sea and took the eight captive pirates to an undisclosed location for questioning, Egyptian security sources said without elaborating.

The returning fishermen said the pirates had asked for a ransom of $5 million for their release. Gunmen from Somalia have made tens of millions of dollars in ransoms from attacks in the strategic Gulf of Aden.

One fisherman, El-Shahat Ragab, pushed through crowds on the dock searching for his mother, who wept as they were reunited.

"They starved us and dealt with us rudely. They beat us and scorned us," Ragab said of the pirates.

Another of the fishermen told journalists how pirates had used diminishing drinking water to bathe and constantly threatened to set fire to the boats with the fishermen onboard.

"Thanks be to God, the two ships tried to co-operate with each other and we were protected by God," said El-Sayyed Sobhi, another member of the crew.   Continued...

<p>Egyptian fisherman, who were held captives by Somali pirates, are greeted by relatives and friends as they arrive in the port of Suez, August 23, 2009. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih (EGYPT CRIME LAW)</p>